U.S. government personnel in Sudan are to be evacuated, sources familiar with the matter told CBS News. The evacuation of roughly 70 American citizens working for the U.S. government in Sudan has been in the planning stages all week, and Sudan’s military said Saturday that they expected countries including the U.S. to begin evacuating “in the coming hours.”
U.S. evacuation from Khartoum will include roughly 70 U.S. personnel but that the hundreds of American citizens in Sudan – 500 was the number shared with congressional sources – will not be included, sources familiar with the U.S. planning have told CBS News. The State Department acknowledges that some records show 16,000 US citizens may be in Sudan but officials consider those figures to be inflated.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Friday operations were still underway at that time to bring U.S. government personnel to the relative safety of the Embassy, and that American civilians would be responsible for their own safety and exit from the country.
Kirby acknowledged that the personnel movements were part of preparation for an evacuation. “We want to be ready for that eventuality if it comes to that,” but cautioned “It is a very dangerous situation in Khartoum, as the fighting continues.”
A U.S. diplomatic convoy flying the American flag was fired upon Monday while security attempted to bring Americans back to the compound. Secretary Blinken called it a “reckless” and “irresponsible” act, and said that forces aligned with Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group led by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo had likely taken the shots.
Intense fighting between two rival Sudanese generals broke out earlier this month. Although multiple ceasefires have been called, gunfire has continued regardless, and an American citizen died in Sudan on Thursday, the State Department said.
As of Saturday afternoon, no decisions had been made public regarding whether the State Department will shutter the U.S. Embassy or what will happen with the dozens of local non-American staff employed there.
Throughout the week, the Biden administration has been working to gather U.S. personnel in Khartoum to the diplomatic compound in the capital city. The Pentagon acknowledged that special operators had been moved into Djibouti to assist with the exit.
The Department of Defense also said they are on standby, Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters at a news conference, “We deployed some forces into the theater to ensure that we provide as many options as possible if we are called on to do something, and we haven’t been called on to do anything yet. No decision on anything has been made.”
On Friday, the Sudanese Armed Forces posted to Facebook that their General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has received calls from the leaders of several countries to allow their citizens and diplomatic staff to evacuate. The post states that al-Burhan has agreed to provide the necessary assistance and that the evacuation of diplomats from the United States, Britain, France, and China is expected to start immediately.
RSF tweeted Friday that they are ready to partially open all airports for friendly countries who wish to evacuate their citizens.
The two groups have been clashing since April 8, when al-Burhan dissolved a power-sharing council and announced his intention to hold elections this year.
Until recently, the two groups were allies whose leadership had come together in 2019 to overthrow Sudan’s brutal dictator Omar al-Bashir. The return to civilian rule comes with a decision over which general will be subordinate to the other. This decision sparked heavy fighting earlier this month and conditions in Sudan’s cities have deteriorated.
Margaret Brennan, Christina Ruffini, Eleanor Watson, Haley Ott, and Caitlin Yilek contributed to this report
Sophia Barkoff is a broadcast associate with CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
Thanks for reading CBS NEWS.
Create your free account or log in
for more features.